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 Texas : Feature : Columns : "They shoe horses, don't they?"

Kyle: Growing with Thought

by Veranda Mansard
With all that's going wrong in the world of development - it's nice to know that something is going right. We heard a rumor a few years ago that the city of Kyle was going to remove their distinctive red white and blue water tower. Coincident with this rumor, we received a letter from a woman in Scotland asking the name of the town between Austin and San Antonio "the one with the water tower." She was remembering Kyle from a visit thirty years before as "positively charming" and her only point of reference was the red, white and blue tower.

Longtime Texas Escapes reader Peter French recently wrote to us with an update on happenings in Kyle - which includes the reacquisition of the historic Missouri Pacific depot and its move from private property. The former jail has spent the last 30 years or so in San Marcos as a feature at the roadside attraction formerly known as Aquarena Springs. The town was offered the jail, but it's poor condition and the lack of a useable space to display it made them decline the offer.
Former Kyle Jail The former Kyle Jail

Photo courtesy Peter French
Missouri Pacific Depot in  Kyle The historic Missouri Pacific depot while being Moved

Photo Courtesy Kerry Urbanowicz, Kyle Parks and Recreation Director
Missouri Pacific Depot in  Kyle Another view of the Depot

Photo Courtesy Kerry Urbanowicz Kyle Parks and Recreation Director

From one of the depot photos, it can be seen that the old Kyle water tower not only has been saved, but it has been repainted in the same familiar colors.

Kyle's explosive growth in recent years could be compared to boom town growth for Texas oil towns in the 1930s. But in this case the newcomers are planning to stay. For many people looking for small town charm, the choice has been between commuting a great distance to a charming town short on amenities or commuting a short distance to a suburb where the identical houses are on steroids. "McMansions," as some have called them.

In Kyle at least one developer has retained the classic small town look of years past - houses have porches - something that everyone says they miss - but few developers seem to provide. These houses have lawns, fences and above all else, the promise that they will age gracefully and not be identified with a particular period (which may be judged unfavorably in the future).

Neighborhoods in Houston have had their bungalows bulldozed to accommodate the fortresses that now serve as residences. Castles with six-inch margins of grass which pass for lawns. Plano's grid of identical houses and matching strip centers reach the horizon. It's always a surprise to discover that even rude, broad-shouldered Plano, once had a friendly and quaint downtown.

Growth is something we have to deal with - but no one said it couldn't be dealt with wisely. With the spirit of sensible development that Kyle is enjoying, it's likely that someone thirty years from now will be asking for the name of the charming little town between Austin and San Antonio --he one with the water tower, the girlhood home of the famous author, and the "old fashioned homes."

Preservation is more than restoring old buildings - it's building a community incorporating all elements - historic and contemporary - of what makes a town livable.

John Troesser
April 19, 2004

See Kyle Depot Today
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